PITTSBURGH—The Seahawks made it a bit difficult on themselves with two turnovers and 10 penalties, but strong performances by the offense and the defense were more than enough to help Seattle beat the Steelers 28-26, leading to a 2-0 start for the franchise for the first time since 2013.
The win was Pete Carroll's 100th, postseason included, as the Seahawks head coach, and it happened to come on his 68th birthday.
Here are seven rapid reactions to Sunday's win/loss in Pittsburgh:
1. Seattle's defense came to play.
While giving up 26 points might not look like a dominant defensive performance on the surface, the Seahawks defense overall had a very good game. Two of Pittsburgh's three touchdowns came on short fields set up by Seattle turnovers, and the Steelers managed only 261 yards in the game while going 3 for 11 on third down.
Seattle's defense set the tone early forcing two straight three-and-outs, and didn't allow a drive of more than 50 yards until the third quarter.
"I think the defense played really good all day long," Carroll said. "They had some difficult situations and a couple plays that got in the way of having a really good day. But we had good pressure on Ben (Roethlisberger). Even though we didn't sack him, we were around him and made it tough on him, I thought we kept his numbers down in the first half. I don't think he threw for 70 yards in the first half so that's a big day just to get that done anytime."
2. Offense adjusted well to early pressure.
Early in the game, the Seahawks struggled to handle Pittsburgh's pass rush, with Wilson getting sacked three times in the first quarter, including on back-to-back plays at one point, and four times in the first half.
In the second half, however, the Seahawks made good adjustments. Wilson avoided further sacks and started getting the ball out quickly as the offense started clicking. After scoring once in the first half, the Seahawks found the end zone three times in the second, in no small part due to the way the offense adjusted.
"I think they did a great job in one of those classic, take what they're giving you (games)," Carroll said. "We had put Russ really in command of the rhythm of the game, and all the quick stuff he did a really great job on. Did a great job throwing the seam routes to Diss (Will Dissly) for the two touchdown passes. Other than that, I thought Russ's rhythm really picked up and the sacks went away in the second half and really cleaned things up."
3. Russell Wilson had another big game.
While Wilson wasn't asked to throw often in the opener, he was very efficient in that win, going 14 of 20 with two touchdowns. On Sunday, Wilson threw more, and again put up impressive numbers. Wilson finished his day 29 for 35 for three touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a 131.0 passer rating.
Wilson now has 201 career touchdown passes after this game, making him the fifth fastest quarterback to reach that total, moving ahead of Tom Brady on the list.
"For us on offense, we didn't do great in the first quarter, but then from then on, we were pretty much lights out, and we did everything that we wanted to do," Wilson said. "I thought it was a great game. We were battle tested today, and we found a way to win a great game"
4. Tyler Lockett was much more involved this week.
Thanks in part to the way the Bengals covered him, and in part to the pressure Wilson faced, and in part to a lack of overall plays for Seattle's offense, Tyler Lockett had a mostly quiet season opener. While Lockett did make one of the game's most important plays, a go-ahead 44-yard touchdown catch, that was his only catch and he was targeted only twice.
On Sunday, however, Lockett was very involved in the offense, seeing targets early and often on his way to a career-high 10 catches for 79 yards. In addition to those yards, Lockett also drew a pass interference penalty—after a successful challenge from Carroll.
5. Will Dissly was big in the red zone.
Will Dissly began his NFL career with a big game on the road, and a year later he had another big September performance away from home. Dissly finished with five catches for 50 yards, two of them touchdown receptions, and two others that went for first downs. He also had a big gain in the first half that came back due to offsetting penalties on both teams.
Carroll raved about Dissly's comeback from last year's torn patellar tendon throughout the offseason and training camp, and on Sunday he showed that he's all the way back.
"Will looked good on a couple of other plays too. It wasn't just the touchdown plays," Carroll said. "Will's come a long way to get back. He had a terrible injury. He's been phenomenal. He continues to rehab. Every day he works on making sure he's making progress and being able to sustain. He's a wonderful football player on our team. Great kid. He's so on point with his assignments, his mentality, and all of that. And he comes through. He's a terrific Seahawk."
6. Penalties were a bit problematic.
While the Seahawks played well overall, they hurt themselves with 10 penalties for 93 yards, and some of those penalties were particularly damaging. A pass interference call on Mychal Kendricks, which Carroll challenged but lost, gave the Steelers first-and-goal and the 1, leading to an eventual touchdown. Late in the first half, DK Metcalf was called for a facemask, knocking the Seahawks back and leading to an eventual 58-yard field goal attempt, which Jason Myers missed wide left.
"The penalties in the first half really kind of offset the rhythm that we could have had," said Carroll.
Late in the game, a Wilson run for a first down was brought back by a holding call on Ethan Pocic, but the Seahawks were able to overcome that one and still get the game-clinching first-down a few plays later.
7. Turnovers were an issue.
A year after the Seahawks committed a league-low 11 turnovers, they have committed three turnovers so far this season, all of them Chris Carson fumbles. Both of Carson's fumbles on Sunday gave the Steelers short fields, which they were able to turn into touchdowns.
The night ended on a high note for Carson, however, as he was able to come in and pick up a first down on fourth-and-1, allowing the Seahawks to run out the clock.
"The second fumble was we cut a guy loose and he got hit on the exchange, that's not his fumble," Carroll said of Carson's football security. "But he did get one knocked away and we need to get to business there and get that out of our football.
"But no, there was nobody I was going to but Chris right there on that one," Carroll added of Carson's fourth-down run that helped seal the victory. "It was an interesting situation, we wanted to go for it there though. We had decided that, it was just a matter of how we were going to do it, and it was good call. A fantastic job of the guys up front just knocking them off the ball to get that first down to win the game."